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From Russia with a purpose
Photos and Story by James Hill
For three years, Andre Temkin has worked as the presentation support specialist for the Southeast Center.
The Russian native is Mister Everything when it comes to classroom and instructional technology at the center. He works as audio visual support for classes and helps keep ITV (distance learning) courses functioning. He oversees Southeast Center’s smart podiums, which take the place of chalk boards for the classrooms, integrating AV services with an overhead projector. If that isn’t enough, Temkin is the computer help guy for staff and faculty who may have software or hardware problems.
"I wear a few hats," Temkin said with a smile. "Mostly my job is to provide knowledge and solutions to faculty with regards to the technology we have. My job is complex, but the campus thankfully is not very big. I love my work at the college; it’s a very dynamic environment."
Temkin’s life has been dynamic, too. He grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, where both of his parents were graduates of the local university. Their interest in higher education propelled him to the university where he earned an engineering degree.
"My mother was in the (Soviet) space program working on the robots that eventually were aboard the space station in the 1980s," Temkin said. "It’s why I wanted to go to the university."
In Russia (then the Soviet Union), after the eighth grade a student had to make a big decision – whether to enter a trade school where they’d train to become a truck driver, carpenter or another job that was deemed "in need" by the government. But Temkin wanted to work on televisions and had a fascination with sound systems, not the usual interests that would make him a valuable worker in his country.
"My parents said I should go to the university and do whatever I wanted as long as I got that degree paper in my hand in the end," he said.
Temkin said he got serious about school and about what he wanted to do when a math teacher was able to get through to him. "I started to pick everything up," he said about mathematics. "From that point on I was getting all As and Bs where as before I was not a good student in math. It’s important to have a good teacher. I felt bad before because she gave everything with her heart in the class and I wasn’t prepared."
The turnaround in math helped him understand sound waves and electronics better. After university, he got a job at a research institute designing sound speakers. He enjoyed the interaction with others but also was intrigued with the new media at the institute.
He went on to work at a radio station, which he says were some of his favorite moments.
"It was an exciting time," he said. "There were no commercial radio stations back then before Perestroika (economic reform). All the stations were government based. We had a lot of transmitters that would simply broadcast a noise to jam the capitalist propaganda of nearby Western nations. When Perestroika happened, there was not much need for the jammers but commercial radio stations could use them. The tools were there; we just didn’t know how to use them."
Temkin’s station gave him a huge amount of responsibility, helping the station join a major national network. His engaging personality catapulted him to DJ and announcer work as well as doing on-air advertisements for the network; jobs he enjoyed. He estimated the station had more than a million listeners.
"I got to the top and then I got to the bottom, washing dishes at Nordstrom," Temkin said.
Due to family issues, Temkin was forced to immigrate to the United States, giving up the radio DJ life. He worked odd jobs at local sound companies as an AV specialist, but work in the seasonal career dried up and before he knew it he was working at Nordstrom as a dishwasher to make ends meet. It was there he learned to speak English.
"To work there I was forced to learn English," he said. "I learned from the basics, working on tasks, joining conversations and soon I was speaking it. You can’t learn until you are in the environment."
After a few more odd jobs, including a stint with a computer game company, he enrolled in Mount Hood Community College and earned a two-year degree in television production, learning about script writing, video editing and computers. Following a downturn in the economy that caused the computer game company to go under, he found a job advertisement from PCC and the rest is history.
"When I saw the ad for technical support I wondered what that was. When I read it twice I realized that I could do it and apply all my different experiences and skills and I’d be a perfect candidate. I applied and now I’m here."
At PCC he has thrived.
"Being not tied down to a cubicle has been a good thing," Temkin said. "I work with multiple people and work on multiple tasks. Few can go without education; my education is the thing that has opened my mind and doors. It’s very exciting to see people using my work and using them all the time. It’s a pretty good feeling."